Meeg Conroy, aka Miss Meeg, slowly sets down two black bags, one filled with art supplies and another containing an extra sandwich that Robin Munro, the founder of Crush Walls, gave her as she walked through Denver Central Market to the alley behind it. Slowly, she’s been finishing two murals that she started during the Crush Walls street art festival in September.
Slow: That’s how Conroy describes her preferred artistic pace. But she didn't choose this exact pace.
Conroy was eager for this year’s Crush. It would be her second time participating in the festival, and she'd been allotted two walls, one dedicated to a project she calls "Denver Tales." While preparing for the event, however, on August 30 Conroy experienced a severe migraine.
“I deal with migraines often, but this one was really bad,” she says. “My right eye wouldn’t dilate, and the lid looked smaller than usual.”
After visiting her primary-care physician, she was referred to Richard Levinson, an ophthalmologist, and saw him on August 31. She found out that she had Horner’s syndrome, a secondary condition that develops when a group of nerves is damaged.
“They said it could be nothing, or it could be a tumor or stroke,” Conroy says. Heeding doctor’s advice, she returned home and scheduled an MRI. The following morning, though, she woke up to more pain and a voice-mail message from Levinson: “He said, ‘I woke up in the middle of the night and was kind of nervous and wanted to know if you have an MRI scheduled.’”
She called back and assured him that she did, for September 6. Levinson urged her to go sooner, so she went to Rose Medical Center to get a CT scan, which revealed a tear in her internal right carotid artery. She was able to avoid surgery, but remained in the hospital until September 4, when Crush Walls was already under way.
Conroy relishes the support she received from fellow artists and from the festival, with many coming to visit her or send flowers. It's been a slow road back to finishing what she set out to do last month...and one of her pieces, titled "Denver Tales," was more labor-intensive than her usual work to begin with.
"I wanted to highlight non-visual artists and bridge the gap between the different mediums, and I wanted to focus on people who were born and raised here to get their story of Denver," she says.
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Known for her stylized animal drawings (her signature is a fox), she asked individual artists to choose an animal to represented them. Conroy also conducted interviews with the artists, talking with each about their art and connection to the city. Greg Baumhauer (comedian), Karma Leigh (artist and educator), Carl Carrell (producer, singer and designer), Bianca Mikahn (slam poet and activist), Mandy Yoches (singer) and Hustle Man (musician) are the individuals she chose for the project.
"It's definitely been a labor of love for me," Conroy says.
Conroy will return to the doctor in December, when another CT scan will assess the tear and how it is healing.
"Art is therapy and healing, so it's been great to be out here," she says. "The whole piece and this whole process has been an affirmation of why I love Denver and why I'm here."